Sunday, November 17, 2013

Civil War Sunday - Those Silly Words

On November 19, starting at 10am, there will be a ceremony at Soldier's National Cemetery, at Gettysburg Military Park, in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

James Getty, a native of Illinois who is a Lincoln look alike and has been a Lincoln reenactor (if that's the right word) for years, will make the same short address that President Abraham Lincoln made 150 years ago November 19, at the dedication of the Soldier's National Cemetery.  There, some of of the 8,000-odd people who died at the Civil War's Battle of Gettysburg, July 1-3, 1863, are buried. 

There are five known copies of the Address. Each is slightly different, and each has a slightly different word count, from 268 to 274 words.  The version below is the one most used.

These words speak for themselves.  There is nothing for me to add.

"Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

My one major disappointment, besides being unable to come to the commemoration myself, is that President Obama will not be attending the ceremonies.  Not all of us know that President John F. Kennedy turned down a similar opportunity to attend the 100th anniversary ceremony.  He went to Dallas, Texas instead.  However, our President participated in this video of various famous people, including all five living Presidents, reciting the address.

We Americans can poke fun, though, at even the most serious of things.  This week, a Pennsylvania newspaper retracted its 1863 criticism (calling the speech "silly remarks") of what may now be the most famous speech in U.S. history, and a satirical Saturday night program jumped right on it.

Here are a couple of Internet resources if you want to learn more:
Ken Burns
Civil War Trust

The world did "more than little note". Let us hope we long remember.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting fact about Kennedy... Perhaps he should have gone to Pennsylvania instead. History. So very interesting...


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